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3 steps to get started on Legal Design

By Sara Ouis.

Have you ever heard of UX?

In the professional world? Probably.

In law school? Probably not.

UX or user experience refers to the end user’s interaction towards a company’s products or services.

I take very little risk here by saying that the delivery of traditional legal services did not account for the importance of the end user’s experience. Delivering the technical outputs used to be pretty much sufficient.

This is where legal design comes into play and supports the idea of a more user friendly approach to legal services. The CEO of Juro, Richard Mabey has a nice way of summing up what legal design entails.

“Legal design is a mindset as much as a discipline. It means starting with the end user of legal services of all kinds and working backwards. And it’s no longer a nice-to-have. To take one example, the GDPR mandates that all privacy notices will need to be concise, transparent and written in plain language.“ [1]

I won’t go into too much detail in regards to legal design as a discipline, our incredible Karol Valencia does it extremely well in this article here.

For the purposes of this article, I will focus on the practical application of it, some illustrations and how you can take the leap into legal design by following 3 simple steps.

Whether you’re looking to create content in an in-house capacity, in private practice or even for the purposes of your own personal brand as a legal professional, legal design can be a great tool to engage with your audience whilst adding value in a very creative way.

I initially started to do legal design without really knowing all of the terminology and background associated with the discipline, it all started from my own experience of law school and, later down the line, of how legal services were delivered.

My baby steps into Legal Design

I would like to take you on a journey based on my personal experience of law school between 2009 and 2014. I guess you probably won’t be surprised, but we did not have anything close to design thinking as a discipline. Our law classes were hundreds of pages long, mainly consisting of legal jargon.

I was always different when it came to approaching my law revisions and understanding legal concepts. I wouldn't create extensive and long winded pages of legal notes out of law lectures. Instead I’d create tables and keep the content to a minimum – but comprehensive enough to understand and remember the basics: principles and exceptions.

When I then started to work in-house, I realized that legal teams were usually described as not only the business prevention or no-to department but were also not an approachable division to work with (the services were perceived as lacking flexibility, accessibility, in addition to a lack of focus on problem-solving approach).

The only few moments where the legal team could really have an opportunity to standout or interact with the business (for example during internal training) would be through very boring, long winded PowerPoint that very few in the audience would remember.

With this experience in mind, I started to really wear our clients’ shoes by thinking: if, given my background and experience as a legal professional, I do not appreciate the way legal services are delivered, what about those with none of these skills and knowledge?

As a result and as soon as I had an opportunity, I started to incorporate more user friendly and engaging ways of interacting with the business through visuals, humour etc.

I also leverage the importance of interactions during the training sessions by incorporating quizzes and team’s work.

I have a passion for education and entertainment combined as I strongly believe them to be the most efficient way to train.

I then noticed a better engagement with the training, a greater level of awareness across attendees and a value add for those who took part in the training.

In addition to creating more engaging legal training, I started to produce innovative content to address certain topics and answer questions

Three steps to create content

If you follow me on social media*, you will already know that I post content mixing legal, entertainment and design.

I finally found a way to create legal content that is both engaging and educational.

I will show you how you can start create your own legal craft by following 3 simple steps

Step 1: Identify who your audience is

It is worth reminding that we don’t create content for ourselves but for others hence the need to really step out of our own bias and identify who the content is addressed to.

Identify the audience is important for various reasons:

  • The content and its relevance are dependent on it

  • The content creation process can significantly vary depending on who the end users are.

The needs and objectives of the content will be different depending on the targeted audience.

It may be tempting to just duplicate one piece of content across multiple populations but it is likely that, by doing so, the content won’t always necessarily be relevant.

If we take the example of running a contract training with two different audiences

  • The first one being entrepreneurs

  • The second one being business people of an organisation with an in-house legal department

Entrepreneurs may have a limited knowledge in terms of contracts.

As a result, going back to the basics and emphasising the business risks associated with commercial contracts may be a good starting point.

The Sanityzer could therefore be relevant for an entrepreneurial audience.

If the targeted audience is business people of an organisation that has a legal team, the legal team will be there to cater for the review of these commercial risks. Therefore, raising awareness on the types of contracts that the organisation uses, their different purposes and the role of business people in the contractual process will probably be more relevant to them.

The contracts love story could therefore be more relevant in that particular situation.

Once we identify the audience and their needs, this gives us the way forward to create content.

The content creation is probably the most challenging part and a couple of ingredients are usually required for its success.

Step 2: The content creation

Does the audience have a knowledge of the topic and to what extent? What are the objectives that we try to achieve in the content?

Having empathy towards end user’s usually does the trick, not only on the content creation piece but also its format. No one wants to go to another unaesthetic and boring PowerPoint type of training. A long winded and legally drafted document is probably not the way either.

People are busy and we live in a quick consumption era, let’s keep it short, sweet and simple when we possibly can.

To quote a French author, Blaise Pascal: “I have only made this letter longer because I have not had the time to make it shorter”

The simplification process takes time but matters a lot and so does the physical aspect of your content. (I won’t go back to the ugly PowerPoint concept, I am sure you get it now)

This is where your creativity comes in.

If law school did not allow us to be creative, now is the time. Creativity really has no limits so we can make the most out of it.

Various formats could be relevant depending on the situation:

  • Visuals: you can create Infographics, comics, (not so ugly) PowerPoint slides

  • Videos and Audio: YouTube, the rise in consumption of podcasts have proved that people are interested in different formats as well such as videos and audio (Could you imagine how awesome it would be for Ed Sheeran to sing a privacy notice to the customers of a Record Label? I personally could!) For example let’s do a (short) remake of Thinking Out Loud

“… And you’re thinking about how companies use data in mysterious ways.

Maybe just the touch of emails

We use your data in a very particular way

And we just want to tell you how…

We use the cloud, that is where you data will be stored

We usually don’t keep it for very long, unless we have to go to court”

Sounds great isn’t it?

Various methods of communications such as humour can positively impact your content and make it memorable.

If we take the Contracts Love Story for example (which is probably my most popular design on LinkedIn with over 21,000 views), what has probably worked here is the surprising parallel between law and love stories (which not only did make people smile but is also more likely to impact people and remind them of the instances where a particular contract must be used)

It is a very different approach to what legal professionals are used to but it is just a matter of adjusting your mindset to a new way of thinking and approaching content creation.

Once you have started to effectively do it, you you will soon realize that creativity resides in you and the overall process will appear more and more natural as you keep on practising.

Does all of the above make sense so far? If so let’s have a look at some tools that you can use to get started.

If not, I am sorry and I would be happy to further discuss with you!

Meanwhile, you can still have a look at the example of tools I am providing below:

Step 3: the tools

Here is an overview of the tools I use the most

  • Canva Out of them all, Canva is by far my most favourite tool. You can start to use it for free to have an idea of what you can create and how it works. For less than £100/year you can have access to more fonts, formats, icons etc. which will allow you to create powerful visuals in a multitude of formats. The tool is really user friendly and you can learn how to use it simply by practising and trying to make designs directly on it.

  • PowerPoint and Flaticon I know I almost had a rant about ugly slides from PowerPoint. The truth is, unaesthetic slides are probably mainly caused by the lack of training as opposed to a wilful intent of non savvy users to damage the reputation of Bill Gates’ product. The Sanityzer was designed using PowerPoint for instance. In terms of icons, you can use Flaticon which allows you to have access to thousands of free icons for less than £100 pounds a year and use them in your designs.

  • Miro Miro allows you to easily create various types of visuals boards with ready-to-use templates to cover various types of scenarios. Again, their team subscription is rather cost effective and would save you the time of having to figure out what is the best way to map out your content.

To sum everything up – you can get started with designing legal content by:

  • Identify who the audience is, what the needs are and the objectives of the content you’re envisaging to create

  • Simplify the content as much as you can and leverage your creativity with the end users in mind

  • Create your content by using the relevant tools such as those described above

Thanks for your time reading!

PS: if anyone knows Ed Sheeran out there – I would very much like to experience the privacy notice song idea!


About the Author

Sarah Ouis is an in-house legal counsel specialized in commercial law and data protection.

She is also a legal content creator who produces innovative legal content on social media (on LinkedIn Sarah OUIS and Instagram @verylawyerproblems). She is on a mission to contribute to a more user centric approach to the delivery of legal services and has been helping legal departments and legal services providers such as law firms to revisit their approach to content creation and value add to the end users.

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